Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel is widely expected to win a fourth term in office as Germans went to the polls on Sunday in an election that is also likely to see the farthest right-wing party in 60 years, the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany, win seats in parliament.
Merkel campaigned on her record as chancellor for 12 years, emphasising the country’s record-low unemployment, strong economic growth, balanced budget and growing international importance.
Her conservative bloc is tipped to be well atop the polls ahead of today’s election over the center-left Social Democrats of challenger Martin Schulz.
Schulz voted together with his wife Inge in the city hall of his hometown of Wuerselen in western Germany.
“I hope that as many people as possible will cast their vote today and strengthen the democratic future of Germany,” Schulz told reporters.
Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Party and its sister party, the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union, have governed the country for the last four years with the Social Democrats in a so-called “grand coalition.” Most forecasts suggest that coalition will win another majority in today’s election outcome, but several different coalition government combinations could be possible.
The latest polls had Merkel’s conservative bloc at 34 to 37 percent support, the center-left Social Democrats with 21 to 22 per cent and the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany, or AfD, with 10 to 13 per cent support.
Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, appealed to his fellow citizens to go out and cast their vote, because “these elections are also about the future of democracy and the future of Europe.”
Countries across Europe have seen a rise of anti-migrant and populist parties in recent elections and several German pollsters have forecast that the anti-migrant, anti-Europe AfD, which appears assured of gaining seats in the national parliament for the first time, may come in as third-strongest party.
The AfD has led an aggressive campaign that was dominated by hostile slogans against the more than 1 million, mostly Muslim migrants who arrived in Germany in the last two years.
They’re aiming to grab votes from conservatives who in the past have voted for Merkel’s party, but are unhappy with her welcoming stance toward refugees.
In addition to the AfD, the Greens, the Free Democratic Party and the Left Party were all poised to enter parliament with poll numbers between 8 and 11 per cent.
(With inputs from Agencies)